Huntington Library and Museum

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HUNTINGTON LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, a library of rare Anglo-American books and manuscripts; an art museum specializing in eighteenth-century English, American, and French paintings; and a botanical garden. The railway magnate Henry Edwards Huntington (1850–1927) and his second wife, Arabella Duval Huntington (1850–1924), created and developed the Huntington Library and Museum. Located in San Marino, California, the library and museum became both a visitor attraction and a research center.

Huntington's original collecting ideal, to document British and American history as expressed in art, literature, politics, and ecology, remained the objective of the institution after his death. Highlights of the collection include the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c. 1410); a Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455); Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy (c. 1770); the Hastings correspondence; eighteenth-century material relating to the British civil war, Oliver Cromwell, and colonial interests; as well as first editions and letters of Shakespeare, William Blake, Mary Shelley, and John Ruskin. Similarly the collection features American documents dating from the original colonies onward. Examples include papers relating to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and many of its signatories; Native American treaties and land grants; and papers, letters, and documents of such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Henry James. The library also houses a collection of over 400,000 rare titles relating to women and women's history from 1455 onward.

Established by Huntington as a trust in 1919 and opened to the public in 1928, the library and museum are situated on the grounds of Henry and Arabella Huntington's former estate. The museum occupies the Huntingtons' beaux arts mansion, while the library resides in a separate building. Both were designed by the architect Myron Hunt.

Born in Oneonta, New York, Henry E. Huntington established his fortune as a railroad magnate and land speculator in California. His career began as a manager for his uncle Collis Huntington, who shared ownership of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads. After Collis Huntington's death in 1900, Henry Huntington expanded the family interests to include the municipal rail system in Los Angeles and property development along his lines. At the same time he cemented his control of Los Angeles's urban development by investing in water and power.

Although he began collecting books and manuscripts in 1903, Huntington emerged as a major book and manuscript collector after his retirement in 1911, when he purchased much of the Hoe collection of illuminated manuscripts and the E. Dwight Church Library of English literature and Americana for a reputed $1.3 million. The prizes of his early collecting were one of only two known 1603 editions of Hamlet and a large amount of material relating to the American Revolution, including hundreds of pamphlets and selections from George Washington's correspondences. After this purchase Huntington collected voraciously. A year later his library ranked as the third largest private library in the United States. Considered the premier American book collector by 1915, Huntington decided to create a permanent house for his collection on his San Marino ranch.


Cannon, Carl L. American Book Collectors and Collecting from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1941.

Dickinson, Donald C. Henry E. Huntington's Library of Libraries. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1995.

Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. The Huntington Art Collections: A Handbook. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1986.

Schad, Robert O. Henry Edwards Huntington: The Founder and the Library. San Marino, Calif.: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, 1931.

Thorpe, James. Henry Edwards Huntington: A Biography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.


See alsoCollecting ; Libraries ; Museums .

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Huntington Library and Museum

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Huntington Library and Museum